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Please God, Make the Pain Go Away

Optimism wanes for a die-hard Cubs fan.

by Timothy McGinnis
June 6, 2002

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Please God, Make the Pain Go Away_Timothy McGinnis-Optimism wanes for a die-hard Cubs fan. I have had a hard time trying to get motivated to write anything at all lately. The Cubs have sucked all optimism and positivity that I have out of me (and those who know me know that I don’t have that much to begin with).

The local pundits have jumped on the Fire Baylor bandwagon, so even though I started driving that bandwagon last year after the Mack Newton Fiasco (and kicked it into high gear after the Oscar Acosta Affair), I felt as though my timing was off for a timely piece.

I wanted to be able to suggest a solution to the horrible fundamentals of this team. I wanted to be able to point out a direction that would solve the heartless play, the abysmal hitting, and the god-awful relief pitching. I could find no such answer.

The realization has dawned on me that there is no answer. The Cubs are a black hole where good feelings and happy thoughts are crushed into infinitesimally small particles that would baffle Stephen Hawking.

Sure, they could fire Don Baylor and we could add his name to the ever-growing list of names that reads like a Who’s Who of Mediocrity: Jim Riggleman, Tom Trebelhorn, Jim Essian, Jim Lefebvre, Lee Elia, Preston Gomez, Frankie Frisch, Bob Kennedy, Bob Scheffing, and El Tappe among others. Who would replace him? Rene Lachemann? Larry Rothschild? These people are not Joe McCarthy or Joe Torre. They aren’t even Joe Cronin, though we could see if Joe Altobelli is available.

They could dump their aging veterans. The ones brought in for their “presence” and “intangibles.” These words are code for “crappy” and “over-the-hill.”

Anytime you have a team where the manager says, “I like this team’s intangibles,” just start waiting for football training camp to start, because that will be the only pleasant thing to happen that summer for you.

Over the years, the Cubs have tried several veterans who “have been there before.” (We are never really told where they have been or what they did when they were there, but we can now just assume that wherever it was that they were, while they were there, they stunk). Again the list is a veritable Lexicon of the Inferior: Candy Maldonado, Danny Jackson, Dave Smith, Jose Guzman, Doug Jones, Mickey Morandini, Willie Wilson, Rick Monday, Jeff Blauser, Vance Law, Benito Santiago, Calvin Schiraldi, Matt Karchner, George Mitterwald, Frank DiPino, Steve Buechele, Larry Biittner, Ron Coomer, Mel Rojas and the immortal Emil Verban.

Baseball experts will tell you that the farm system should be the backbone of a successful organization. Talent should be homegrown, these people will tell you. The Cubs’ crop of young players is usually full of worms. The few good ones that do come up are invariably traded for Proven Veterans With Intangibles (Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, Rafael Palmeiro for Mitch Williams, Bruce Sutter for Leon Durham and Ken Reitz). The ones that do come up are invariably nothing to be proud of: Ozzie Timmons, Scott Bullett, Tuffy Rhodes, Kevin Roberson, Doug Dascenzo, Mike Harkey, Lance Dickson, Kevin Foster, Kevin Orie, Brant Brown, Brooks Kieschnick, Scot Thompson, Jim Tracy, Gary Scott, Chuck Rainey, Ced Landrum, Shawn Boskie, Damon Berryhill... this is not a harvest, it is a compost heap.

Sure, I could try to stay optimistic and figure the odds have got to kick in eventually. Pure randomness would have garnered at least one or two World Series titles since 1908. They have none and haven’t even been there since 1945.

So they are overdue. Didn’t Susan Lucci eventually win an Emmy? Didn’t Randy Newman eventually win an Oscar? The Cubs are overdue in the same way that the Trix Rabbit and Wile E. Coyote are due. Charlie Brown finally won a game, why can’t the Cubs finally end their seemingly endless string of futility?

Is it some strange alignment of the planets that creates such offensive ineptitude that they made a 43-year old pitcher coming off two years out of baseball and numerous arm surgeries, look like the second coming of Cy Young (he was recently returned to the bullpen because he has not faced the Cubs recently). Actually, Cy Young could probably still throw a two-hit shutout against this team and he has been dead since 1955.

Delino DeShields’ and Chris Stynes’ defensive skills have made me look for the “Chico’s Bail Bonds” sponsorship on the back of their uniforms. Did they mock God as children? Were they Hitler and Stalin in their former lives?

Don Baylor’s strategic aptitude makes me wonder if he would be able to keep up with a retarded chimp in a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. He was once a highly sought after managerial candidate. He was a Manager of the Year with the Rockies. Chipper Jones and Todd Helton swear up and down that his tutelage was a key in their development as perennial MVP contenders. What the hell happened? Why has the brain damage brought on by the record number of hit-by-pitches he achieved during his playing days finally afflicted him now?

Fred McGriff had 448 career homeruns coming into this season. Moises Alou is a career .306 hitter who averaged 111 RBIs over his last five full seasons. They have struggled to hit their weight, and they are not fat men. Did they age 157 years in just one offseason? Did someone steal their steroids?

No. They became Cubs.

God help Corey Patterson, Bobby Hill, and Mark Prior. They are the rookies considered the light at the end of the tunnel for the Cubs. These are the building blocks from which the future Cub Dynasty will be erected. If I know anything from watching this pathetic excuse for a baseball organization, the foundation will be leaky and the superstructure will be infested with termites.

George Will once attributed his pessimistic worldview to his early exposure to the Cubs: “The differences between conservatives and liberals are as much a matter of temperament as ideas. Liberals are temperamentally inclined to see the world as a harmonious carnival of sweetness and light, where goodwill prevails, good intentions are rewarded, the race is to the swift and a benevolent Nature arranges a favorable balance of pleasure over pain. Conservatives (and Cub fans) know better.

Conservatives know the world is a dark and forbidding place where most new knowledge is false, most improvements are for the worse, the battle is not to the strong, nor riches to men of understanding and an unscrupulous Providence consigns innocents to suffering. I learned this early."

Who am I to argue with George Will? I am beginning to believe that there is no hope.

Cub fans (myself included) have continued to chase the belief that the Cubs will eventually improve much as a dog chases his tail. The difference is that the dog eventually gives up.

I am getting tired of chasing my tail.

Comments (2)

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FANTANA from Chicago, IL writes:
June 7, 2002
As a life-long fan of Chicago sports teams, I share the pain of Mr. McGinnis. Chicago Sports fans have had to watch their teams wallow in mediocricy (at best) for generations. No place is this better evidenced than with the Cubs.

The Cubs do not deserve the loyal following they have. Perhaps it is time for some tough love. I am urging all Cub fans to boycott the team for just one season. Cubs players and management are too content with the status quo - no matter how poorly the Cubs do, their fans will come.

A decrease in attendance to Soldier Field during the Wannestadt era sent a clear message to the McCaskeys - improve and improve NOW! Perhaps similar tactics will alert the Cubs organization (although the message seems to be lost on the Wirtzes and Mr. Reinsdorf).

It is too late for the 2002 season, but perhaps if all Cub fans refused to follow the 2003 season, the Cubs wouldn't feel quite so secure playing their ho-hum, it-doesn't-matter-if we-lose style of baseball. Don't go to the games, dont watch them on WGN-TV. Heck, don't even follow them in the Chicago Tribune (who owns the Cubs).

Unfortunately, Cub fans are like drug addicts - they can't keep away no matter how bad it is. Come on Cub fans, go cold turkey! I know it will be hard, but you feel better once you do it.

Al Bolon from Glenview IL writes:
April 23, 2003
Rarely does a written article come through unveiling the author's true personality... such as this one. Written by a true Cub fan, it is witty, factual and held my interest from beginning to end. Too bad I can't read such an article in the Sun Times. Please keep them coming.

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